Wildlife photography is hard. I had always wanted to snap a few shots of birds of prey for my portfolio. They're regal, powerful, and beautiful animals. But they're annoying little divas when you try to get close enough for a good shot. Prior to a few days ago, the two following pictures were my only relatively successful attempts at getting good shots of a hawk.
While not horrible, they certainly weren't images I was proud of, nor did I want to show the world a sub-par version of something I thought I could do better. The birds are posed beautifully but the images were heavily cropped, not that sharp, and the background was quite boring.
These images were shot on a weekend home in Martinez. The oak grasslands are ideal habitat for these beautiful red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) but the bright, clear skies make for a difficult backdrop for photos. Back in Berkeley I was walking through the university campus to meet a good friend from my fieldwork in the South Pacific and a large flash of orange flew about 5 meters from my face. I wasn't sure what it was but I knew it was a bird of prey and immediately I regretted not having my telephoto lens on my camera. From then on I began carrying my telephoto lens around everyday and when it was quiet around campus, I'd always have it mounted on the camera.
Sure enough, I got the shot. A bird of prey in a bustling urban environment. Unheard of! Not only was the hawk on campus, it was right by one of the busiest paths on the university property. A beautiful red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) flying back and forth from the oaks to the redwoods and vice versa. A more beautiful subject and background could not be wished for.
But the point of all this? It took two months of carrying around an extra lens (an extra five pounds in addition to my already normally heavy backpack). All for the mere chance that I'd see the bird. Every morning and every evening on the way to and from work or to and from class. Two months of patiently waiting. And it paid off.
The point of all this is that if you wait long enough and try hard enough at pretty much anything, it pays off. Don't stop trying just because you're tired or because you think you're not good enough. Sometimes it'll seem like you're stuck and you'll feel like you're drowning. But don't stop trying. If you fail, who cares? The only thing that comes from a failure is that you become a better, more experienced person. So don't stop trying. Even when you get to where you want to be, don't stop trying. The day you stop trying to do the things you love is the day who you are dies.
Also, I graduated on Saturday. Yay.